Is the office going to move to the suburbs? 

Millennials forcing companies to abandon boring suburban office parks

Just as the Beverly Hillbilly’s left their country lifestyle for a luxurious Hollywood mansion when they struck oil, so too are big businesses leaving their center city high-rise address for a suburban hub.

Before the Pandemic, there were ‘5 key reasons behind big businesses moving to the suburbs’ as noted in UrbanBound.com in May 2020: affordable rent; more space; easier commute for employees; traffic; and connectivity of technology. Do these rules still stand? More than ever!

The flourishing suburban office building already provided a dynamic and engaging setting for a wide variety of workers. It won prospective tenants over with vibrant, community-minded design from the moment they stepped into the lobby, through the halls and outdoor space that set out to inspire the workplace. By creating a setting that would bring people together with shared, positive experiences, building owners achieved a destination workplace in the city with an impressive address.

Now that we are more comfortable with our home office, the incentives to establish a socially activated suburban destination workplace becomes more appealing.  The local neighborhoods now serve as a communal vibe that workers have learned to appreciate. 

A company that owns a suburban space has more freedoms and liberty to implement change. Center city renters might be limited to restrictions set by the owners.  As our teams see the workspace as a more social setting than the place to push a time clock, Pandemic planning for today and tomorrow has taken on a new look. 

Suburban owners can socially activate their office buildings by creating an ecosystem that caters to tenants’ diverse daily needs right inside the building. With enough room and flexibility to carve out a space that is neither the home office or the corporate headquarters, employees can get to know each other, share ideas, or simply recharge in the company of their co-workers.

Thriving suburban office buildings have actively provided a consistent, welcoming and unique experience in design and amenities where there is room to shape the experience like clean, inviting curb appeal rather than crowded sidewalks and meters. Taking advantage of green space in the suburbs rather than city parking lots leads the way to vibrant landscaping and open space. 

Suburban space can offer a more convenient fitness center available 24/7for staying fit and maximizing workout time. Coaches can manage fitness rooms to elevate the workout experience. Designers might redesign atrium space that doubles as a community hub or restructure the layout of a conference room. A dietician may encourage a more flexible cafeteria that caters to a broader choice of food options that meet dietary habits and timelines.

Open space might be modified further, expanding the sitting area to a place of play as we can all benefit from a mental break for a little boost of fun and creativity. This type of casual space can bring people together to unwind in a space free of workstations.

Employers are expecting staff to return to the office. A center city facility might face more inconveniences around how to expand their space to accommodate social distance as the cost per square foot ranges much higher.  A suburban office might have more flexibility to enable staff to spread out, have rapid access to fresh air at a time when both physical and mental health are being taxed.

Every business should be reassessing their real estate. Pre-Pandemic, the office was an asset used to appeal to the new generation who frequented center city restaurants and clubs after hours. As those once skeptical executives accept   working from home can be effective, the role and footprint of the corporate office is under review.  While not just about reducing costs, the workspace of the future just might offer more.

The time has come to consider where we work because how we work keeps evolving. What comes next is the unknown, yet we will likely need to adjust. Perhaps we move from a metropolitan location to a suburban hub, or a hybrid style work environment that utilizes shared space. What the future holds is up for discussion and debate. Although many employees will ultimately return to a city office, it will be the suburban workplace destination that becomes the workspace most reflective of our new way of working in an amenity filled environment. 

Posted in Our Thoughts.

Sharon Miller-Trackman

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